Our Life In Christ

It all started with our baptism. There we were—precious, little infants, smiling and cute—completely unaware of what was happening to us. Grandma dabbed a tear from her eye and grandpa aimed the camera, as the water flowed over our head and the priest said, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” At that moment, your life and mine changed forever. We would never be the same again. And so begins the life of a Christian. We were marked with that beautiful sign of our faith, and our lives were set on a path to follow Christ.

Our readings this weekend are rich with encouragement for us on our Christian journey. In our gospel reading, we see the impetuous Peter, who denies that Jesus will suffer the passion. He is strongly rebuked—even called Satan, by Jesus—because he is thinking as human beings do, and not as God does. What follows is probably the clearest directive about the life of a follower of Christ. Jesus tells us that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.

We are living in a time unlike any other in our history (at least recent history). We are living under the specter of a pandemic—a horrible virus that is daily claiming lives and mystifying scientists. We are asked to practice social isolation at a time when we long to hold each other close to find comfort in our fear. Our smiles hide behind a mask that is designed to protect us and our neighbors. We wash our hands and sanitize our homes. We live in a constant state of worry over something we can’t see, and yet we know is there.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, Jesus comes with these challenging words. He reminds us that the day we were baptized, we entered into a new kind of relationship with Him. This new relationship would require us to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given us at our baptism, to willingly accept the suffering that comes in this life knowing that Jesus will be with us every step of the way. As Christians, we recognize that suffering is expected in this life. While we enjoy comfort and pleasure, we know that the suffering we endure is what really forms and molds us into the men and women of God that we are called to become.

In our second reading from Romans, St. Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are not to conform ourselves to this age, but set our hearts on the everlasting—our life in heaven with God. As we observe the protocols set out to protect us in this pandemic time, we are making that sacrifice that St. Paul talks about in his letter. We are denying ourselves each time we pull on our mask or accept an “elbow bump,” instead of a handshake. As we suffer these challenges to our social way of being, we realize that we are doing these things for the greater good of our brothers and sisters. It is a small sacrifice, but one that does not go unnoticed by our Loving Father.

Our psalm response this weekend really brings all of this into a beautiful way of understanding the suffering of this life:

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”

We need God in our lives, and we desire to be with Him. And while we stumble and fall a hundred times in our quest for holiness, our greatest desire is to be with the Lord. As we come to the end of each day, this is a beautiful meditation for us to take into our prayer time. Our souls, thirsting for God, endure whatever life throws at us on any given day. We know that these earthly battles we fight with our own will and the world around us always bring us to our knees before the One who made us in His image and likeness. We are God’s children; that is who we are. While many are shouting angry words about the state of our world, we are clutching our rosary beads, meditating on the mysteries of our faith, and trusting that God will bring healing to this fallen world.

Jesus did not ask us to take up our cross alone! He promised to be with us always, and to send the Holy Spirit to aid us in our weakness. We are called to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow in the footsteps of our Savior. Let’s stay united to one another in prayer, during these challenging and uncertain days. God is with us, and He will prevail over even the darkest moments. Take a moment today to give thanks to God for the blessings in your life. Say a prayer for an end to COVID, and a prayer for the restoration of peace in our world. Then hear the words of our Loving Father, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

May God bless you!
Deacon Tim

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